Experts are warning that the “worst is yet to come” as wildfires continue to ravage the Amazon Rainforest.
Scientists have already said that 2019 has been the most destructive year on record, with over 80,000 forest blazes detected this year.
Despite global condemnation, Brazil’s government and its right-wing president have played down the scale of destruction.
However, a prominent forestry expert told Brazil’s O Globo newspaper that the fires and their spread will worsen, with the dry season yet to fully play out.
Tasso Azevedo, a forest engineer and environmentalist said, “the worst is yet to come”.
“What we are experiencing is a genuine crisis which could become a tragedy foretold with much larger fires than the ones we are now seeing if they are not immediately halted,” he told O Globo.
An area roughly the size of a football pitch is lost every minute to fires in the Amazon. REUTERS
It’s estimated there have been around 80,000 blazes already this year. REUTERS
In the first 26 days of August, 1,114 square kilometres of forest had been destroyed by fire, an area roughly the size of Hong Kong.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro claims the situation has been “returning to normal”.
His Defence Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva added, “the situation is not straightforward but it’s under control and already cooling down nicely.”
Amazon fires: Bolsonaro fans the flames
The fires have generated some serious political heat.
Bolsonaro has been roundly condemned by other world leaders and environmental groups for not doing enough to contain the destructive blazes.
Last week Bolsonaro questioned findings from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) that there had been an 84 per cent surge in wildfires from January to August compared to the same period last year.
The President even sacked the head of the agency in the wake of their findings.
Bolsonaro even blamed Brazilian NGOs (non-government organisations) for starting the fires themselves in order to, the president claims, paint an even dimmer picture of him after he cut their funding.
The president said in a Facebook live broadcast two weeks ago, ‘there could be…, I’m not affirming it, criminal action by these ‘NGOers’ to create negative attention against my person, against the government of Brazil. This is the war that we are facing.”
The Amazon basin is home to three million species of flora and fauna.
It’s the world’s largest rainforest and carbon store, and its existence is vital for slowing the pace of global warming.
It’s estimated around a football pitch worth of rainforest is lost every minute.
Amazon fires: Why are they happening?
Farmers based in the Amazon will often illegally start controlled fires to clear land for cattle ranching and other agricultural purposes.
On top of that, the dry season often heralds a natural spike in forest blazes.
However, conservationists have blamed President Jair Bolsonaro for the record level of fires, suggesting he has been encouraging farmers to clear more land for the lucrative logging industry.
Scientists have also said the rainforest’s plight has accelerated since he took office in January, according to the BBC.